Manchester Buses - A Retrospective - Tailpiece

Manchester Buses - A Retrospective - Tailpiece

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All the articles published over the last few months were originally written between 2006 and 2009 for a Manchester Forum dealing basically with local history. They have been updated and corrected with new or better information that has come to light in the meantime.

Re-writing these articles has been both a trip down memory lane and an interesting piece of research. So many things came readily to mind whilst others had to be dug from the depths of memory and cross checked.

The research threw up many things long forgotten. The silver roof that SHMD used on its buses prior to the mid 1950s. The fact that Ashton, when it changed to the peacock blue and primrose scheme had much larger areas of primrose below the windows, only modified when the first Roe bodied PD2s appeared as their body mouldings would have made the scheme look odd. The rest of the fleet was amended at repainting.

I've also seen photos of vehicles long remembered but not seen in life or as a photo for decades. Some of the memories are quite vivid. Riding Ashton's first bus in the new scheme in 1954 - I can almost smell the paint.

I was on my bike (well my brother's actually) on Mauldeth Rd., Heaton Mersey, on a Sunday in 1960 when I saw Stockport's first Longwell Green PD2. The glimpses of Manchester's first Atlanteans on Wilmslow Rd on test during the manning dispute in 1960.

People feature in the memories. The late David Thornley who I met at school. He lived in Didsbury, next door to an MCTD Inspector who obtained for us the odd visit inside Parrs Wood depot. David was tragically killed at the age of 14 in a cycling accident in Bowden - we used to cycle far and wide in those days.

Paul Jordan, who was also at Xaverian and came from Moston, who supplied information on what was happening north of the city and initially shared the cost with me of Buses Illustrated which started me on the road to some technical know how.

Martin Hannett, the subject of a previous and specially written article for this series and Aidan Turner-Bishop was also at school with me and was another source of much information during my schooldays.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s depot staff could be persuaded to let genuinely interested outsiders around depots and works and the staff at North Western's Charles St facility and Stockport's Heaton Lane depot and Mersey Square works were always welcoming, instructive and helpful.

From 1968 to 1971 I worked for Huntley, Boorne and Stevens. They were part of the Huntley and Palmers biscuit concern in Reading and made tin boxes for the parent company and other food manufacturers. They had diversified and had built a machine that laminated PVC to metals to provide decorative finishes which, amongst others uses were applied as trim to the Austin Mini and 1100 Countryman, the Ford Cortina MkIII and on certain panels on Eastern Coachworks bus bodies.

With major bus concerns and five major body builders in my area (the whole of the North of England) I was told to go and find business. I established a good relationship with East Lancashire Coachbuilders and thus saw the Stockport ordered Bristol VRTs before they were destroyed. East Lancashire virtually hand built every body part and it was whilst showing me round the Mancunians they were building that they pointed out panels which could be effectively built using my company's products.

By this time SELNEC was about to take over so I went along to Devonshire St to see the designers and was shown the door. Not to be turned away I headed for the fifth floor of Peter House on Oxford St Manchester and the office of one Tony Harrison, Director General.

He agreed to give me a hearing and sent me back to Devonshire St with an introduction. The introduction eventually resulted in the product I was selling being specified for four panel covers in each of the cabs of the East Lancashire Fleetlines for 1972 delivery - the vehicles that were eventually built by Roe due to the fire at East Lancashire.

However the fire killed the order as Roe did not use the product as the cabs on the Park Royal designed vehicles were different.

The tale has a twist. Eight years after that visit to Peter House I was again sitting in that same office at the very same desk. This time I was on the other side, the office was mine and Tony Harrison was my boss - he was Chief Executive of GMC, I was Greater Manchester Conference Officer.

Most of the information contained in these articles has been cross checked on the internet or in various publications in my collection including Doug Jack's The Leyland Bus, Ted Jones' North Western, and Harry Postlethwaite's Stockport Corporation.

I've relied extensively on information published by Peter Gould in his fleet lists to confirm dates, on pictures on dozens of enthusiast sites on the internet to confirm details of colour schemes and designs to make sure my information hadn't been distorted by ageing brain cells - and where it had, it has been corrected.

Much of the Manchester information was garnered in 7 years of using the system to get to and from school followed by four years of close observation - all of which was added to by access to the archives during my time with GMC. I have cross checked, though not always agreed with, Michael Eyre and Chris Heaps' generally excellent publications detailing Manchester and Greater Manchester buses.

Whilst researching I have found that almost every type mentioned has at least one photo on the web. Some take a great deal of finding.

I have three final acknowledgements. The first to those of you who have had the interest and patience to stay the course. The second to someone who contributes here from time to time - Orla Nutting, whoever he or she may be - and finally, and most importantly, to a contributor to the Manchester Forum, Degsy168, who planted the idea in my mind the first place.

Phil Blinkhorn


27/06/13 - 08:14

I spent many months reading when I first found Old Bus Photo's web site, I feel I have got to know a lot of contributors just by reading.
I always know when an article by Phil Blinkhorn is written by him as the detail is so good, these last four and the tailpiece have been just so full of information and very informative and, well written. As much as I love the buses of old I never got into them in the way most contributors on here have, I used my expertise in a different way working as a Television Cameraman in news and documentaries for all the world's broadcaster's which lasted until my retirement, that never took away my interest in old Buses and I even got to drive an AEC Regent V and others.
Well Done Phil on four excellent articles and the tailpiece, it kept me reading for a few hours.
By the way I even get to most bus running days when time allows. I also find myself shaking my head when the pink and blue and other monstrosities pass me on the road.

David J Henighan



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